The Pretendians

Why are there so many ‘pretend Indians’ these days? Anishinaabe author Drew Hayden Taylor investigates

Available on CBC Gem

The Pretendians

The Passionate Eye

Esteemed novelist Joseph Boyden, acclaimed film director Michelle Latimer and former University of Saskatchewan professor Carrie Bourassa have all made front-page news in recent years for the same reason: each is alleged to have been a “pretendian.”

The term “pretendian” has come to refer to someone who claims distant Indigenous heritage that doesn’t stand up to deeper scrutiny. But why would someone fake an Indigenous identity?

That question is the premise of The Pretendians, a documentary from The Passionate Eye and the latest film featuring Anishinaabe author and playwright Drew Hayden Taylor. The documentary follows his cross-Canada journey, revealing what really lies behind this explosive issue.

Taylor goes on the hunt for knock-off Indigenous art on the West Coast, and explores an explosion of dubious Indigenous heritage claims in Eastern Canada. He unpacks the concept of blood quantum — that one drop of Indigenous blood is enough to claim Indigeneity — and meets a university teacher who’s found her own Indigenous heritage being questioned on social media. Taylor also joins an American Cherokee woman, the director of the Tribal Alliance Against Frauds, as she tries to track down and confront an alleged pretendian teaching at one of Canada’s most prestigious universities.

As he investigates the growing phenomenon, Taylor asks: “Is it all about money and jobs, or is there something deeper going on?

Watch The Pretendians on The Passionate Eye.